Caley Thistle manager John Robertson says only finances have prevented him from raiding the Highland League for talent.
Inverness begin their Scottish Cup campaign tomorrow, when they make the trip to Buckie Thistle in their second round tie at Victoria Park.
Robertson is an admirer of the Highland League, and feels there are several players capable of making the step up to the SPFL.
Robertson says the joint income earned by players in the division from their day jobs, coupled with their part-time football wages, make it difficult for him to attract players to a full-time contract with Caley Jags in the Championship.
Robertson said: “We keep an eye on the Highland League.
“There are lads in all Highland League teams who have left Inverness, Ross County and Elgin, who make a very good living and have successful careers in the league.
“Sometimes it doesn’t suit the part-time lads in the Highland League to go full-time, because they have got very good jobs and a lot of them get very good money to play part-time level.
“It’s difficult. We have tried to get three or four in from the Highland League, and two or three from the lower leagues, but it has been impossible because the money they make from the joint income is substantially more than we could possibly pay.
“A part-time player these days probably earns more than our guys are earning at the top Highland League clubs, between his own job and the money from part-time football.
Robertson will come up against a previous target in the form of Buckie captain Kevin Fraser, who spent a successful trial period at Caledonian Stadium in 2017, however, Inverness could not agree a fee with the Jags.
Robertson also made attempts to sign Mitch Megginson and Blair Yule from Cove Rangers when the Aberdeen side were in the Highland League, and the Caley Jags boss says he will continue to monitor the division in search of players.
Robertson added: “We have tried over the years to try and get a couple of Cove Rangers players in the past, but they decided to stay there because they were on fantastic wages at Cove as well as their own job.
“We had a good nibble at Kevin Fraser, who will come up against us. We really like Kevin, we tried to get him in three years ago, but Buckie wouldn’t sell him.
“He had a bad knee injury which we helped rehabilitate here at the stadium, but we know all about him.
“Andrew MacAskill was here, but the people at the time didn’t feel he had the attributes to go any further.
“There is quality there, and we will continue as we always do to look at the Highland League and see if we can entice the better ones if we feel they’ve got a chance of stepping up.”
Robertson says the recent national cup showings of Highland League clubs, including tomorrow’s opponents Buckie, prove how difficult a test his side faces against Graeme Stewart’s men.
Robertson added: “We are fortunate that in pre-season we have tough matches in the Highland League.
“Buckie went down in the last round and beat Albion Rovers comfortably to come into the next round of the cup.
“Brora have done very well in the League Cup section, last season they went to Morton and got a draw before getting knocked out in the replay.
“Fraserburgh will be strong this year, I think they have got a good chance.
“There are teams that are capable of causing shocks – the Highland League has got a lot of good players.”